I got a sad note yesterday from a woman whose son, a single custodial parent, had been notified by state Human Services that a child care aid program was running out June 30 and his payments would cease.
My son brings home $539 every two weeks from his job. His daughter's child care would be $204 for the same period of time, roughly 40% of his take-home pay.
Since he cannot quit his job to take care of his daughter, he called multiple times every business day the following week for Ivory Daniels, at the number listed on the letter. He was never permitted to speak to Mr. Daniels, and when he asked what other kinds of child care assistance were available to him, he was sent to a voice mail message that said an operator was not available.
I was finally able to get hold of Mr. Daniels by email, and he provided me with a list of Saline County Head Starts (3 of them) that only operate during the school year. The ABC programs to which he referred us provide some limited assistance up to 5 hours per day.
I have not seen any media coverage of what will shortly be a catastrophic financial events for hundreds of Arkansas parents in a disasterous economic climate.
I asked Julie Munsell at DHS about the program's end. The short answer is that this aid was federal stimulus money. It put people to work in daycare caring for 11,000 children. It helped a working man make ends meet. Now it's over. Was the stimulus a failure? Or was failure to do more stimulus the failure? Munsell's response to my original question:
Child Care (DCCECE) has administered $25,733,168 in child care vouchers funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The Division began funding ARRA child care in February 2009 and fully obligated the entire grant as of May 2010.
The good news is over 11,000 new children have received assistance under those funds. The bad news is as we all knew would happen, the funding has all been spent. The ARRA grant was one time funding as a part of the federal stimulus effort. Child care under this program was provided with the understanding that such care was subject to the availability of funds.
In early June the remaining ARRA voucher funding was exhausted but the Division is honoring all existing child care authorizations through June 30, 2010 utilizing monies from the regular Child Care Development Fund block grant. Also, families currently on the ARRA program at the end of June will be moved to a waiting list and will be given priority on that list should new funding become available.